A novel account of scientific anomaly: Help for the dispute over low-dose biochemical effects

Philosophy of Science 73 (5):790-802 (2006)
The biological effects of low doses of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals are currently a matter of significant scientific controversy. This paper argues that philosophers of science can contribute to alleviating this controversy by examining it with the aid of a novel account of scientific anomaly. Specifically, analysis of contemporary research on chemical hormesis (i.e., alleged beneficial biological effects produced by low doses of substances that are harmful at higher doses) suggests that scientists may initially describe anomalous phenomena in terms of multiple distinct "characterizations," each of which is compatible with current empirical evidence. By focusing attention on this feature of scientific anomalies, philosophers of science can alleviate the controversy over low-dose chemical effects in at least two ways: (1) they can pinpoint the significant ways in which particular characterizations frame the controversy, and (2) they can identify the methodological value judgments at stake in researchers' choice of characterizations.
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Kevin Elliott (2004). Error as Means to Discovery. Philosophy of Science 71 (2):174-197.

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